2017-09-23 04:07 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Dang! The last 3 days in a row have seen record-breaking highs here. Today might be the 4th in a row. Anyway, it's Saturday. Other than the weather, it's nice because Doris isn't working today. I staffed the Dems table at the farmer's market for an hour, which was truly all I could take given that it was 92. Ugh!

Then I went home, we had lunch, and watched Gotham. We're going to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner tonight.

Yesterday I finished my deep-dive clean of each room.

I won't be doing much else outside till this heat wave breaks.
2017-09-22 03:49 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

I'm not sure if today's temperatures broke records again, but the temperatures the last 2 days did. So - no apologies for not doing more! When it's 96 outside, I don't feel like riding trains and busses to go places. 

Yesterday I did help set up at the Dems' fundraiser in the evening. I'm glad I did it. Beforehand I'd had a headache and combined with the heat, I didn't feel like going. But I went, got some iced tea, and helped - and enjoyed seeing my friends there.

As for today, I did do a good deed. There's a group that's coming around to people's houses tomorrow to get donations for the food pantry. I went grocery shopping (used my monthly 5% off) and picked up a bunch of items for them. 

Other than that? Not much more than my usual stuff. I am watching an episode of XTAS. Went to the bank and got my ring cleaned. Taking a look at my diet and making a few adjustments. I'm actually quite energized about that, I think I can implement these changes though it won't be easy! Made a bunch of calls about TrumpCare. 

Still enjoying The Expanse. I think I have about 5 episodes left till I'm caught up. I'm sure when I watch it in the future, I will think of my sabbatical since that's when I got into it!

Oh, and something cool happened. Alaska's on tour with 2 other queens, and in one video on the tour bus, he says he likes dry shampoo. I text him to ask what brand, and I think it's so cool that he replies right away!

Another interesting thing is that the day after my sabbatical started, I flew to NY to see Alaska perform. And he's got a gig in Chicago on the second to the last day of my sabbatical. So I will always remember those bookends. 

Tomorrow's Saturday and Doris isn't working. We have no plans other than to hit one of the Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago, which we haven't done for quite some time. 

PS - Still love my new sandals. 
2017-09-21 03:06 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

I ordered a pair of sandals from Zappos, they came in today, and I love them! They are cute and comfortable. (Before they arrived, I was down to one pair of sandals, a pair which is great but I've really worn them into the ground and needed a backup pair. I had held onto a only semi-comfortable pair of sandals for the past 4 years as my backup pair but finally took them to the Brown Elephant since they just never have been that good).

Temperatures today hit record highs, so my day played out as I'd expected. I finished watching the last movie in yesterday's movie marathon, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Sword of Destiny". (I loved it, loved Michelle Yeoh and loved all the powerful women in the 2 Crouching Tiger movies. And the cinematography is so perfect). I went to Handlebar Cafe and really liked it; I wish they'd occasionally add new items to their menu but I tried something I hadn't seen before and it was good. I drove out west to get a massage with Tony at Simply Beautiful. It's just after 3:00 now. I'm trying to cool off and get ready to help set up at the Dems' fundraiser tonight.

Tomorrow the forecast calls for more exceptionally hot, shitty weather. For the first time in the nearly 7 weeks that I've been off, I'm not sure what to do especially since I just don't want to do anything that requires me to be outside for more than a minute. Maybe I will run errands like getting my ring cleaned or going to the bank. Maybe visit Oak Park's new museum, or cook a new dish. There's a food drive, maybe I just go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of items for the food drive. Been wanting to watch some XTAS, I can do that. And in the evening, I can go to a show at Hamburger Mary's.
2017-09-20 02:56 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Today did a food rescue from Bruegger's Bagels, and then decided to do something I haven't done yet all sabbatical - a movie marathon. It's just too dang hot outside and I'm so hashtag over it, so no outdoorsy stuff for me till it cools down.

I did take a break at lunchtime to grocery shop and cook a new recipe. Made a few political calls. 

Tomorrow more crappy high-80's weather is projected. In the evening, I'll be helping set up at a Dems fundraiser. During the day? Maybe I will finally hit Handlebar Cafe. Maybe get a pedi, since sandal weather is apparently continuing well into September. :) Oh, and I scheduled a massage with the great guy who did my massage on my spa day with Jenny weeks ago.
2017-09-19 06:00 pm


I usually post about happy things. I try to keep it positive, I realize my life is pretty good, I'm usually pretty happy. But I gotta say that my heart is broken whenever I think about the state of the world, and the state of this country. The news each day is almost too much to bear. An earthquake in Mexico. Hurricanes that have decimated the US and surrounding islands - and the fact that days before Harvey hit, Trump undid Obama-era flooding regulations that would've helped in crises like these. TrumpCare looks likely to pass now. Last night the Senate voted to increase defense spending - the US spends on its military more than the next 10 countries put together.  The Rohingya crisis. And in Chicago today, someone handed me literature about factory farms. Nothing I hadn't seen before, but the pictures of the animals living their lives in misery just kills me. And the horrible speech at the UN, we really will be lucky if we avert nuclear war. 

All of these things, and a hundred more - I just want to cry. Why are humans on earth if all we do is suffer and cause suffering?

Okay, deep breath. I can continue doing the good things I do - work to get Democrats elected, volunteer at the food pantry, call my elected officials.  Like I posted before, there has always been suffering on earth - lately it all just feels worse because of Trump and the Republicans controlling the government. I can still enjoy my life despite all this suffering; there's no point in me being miserable too. I have to use all of the above as a catalyst to redouble my efforts. It's either that or let it drive me crazy. So that's that. 
2017-09-19 02:41 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

I visited The Nutella Cafe in Chicago. What I ordered was excellent. But they did confirm that they are still really busy on Saturdays (Yelp has reports of the line going outside the restaurant, and nowhere to sit inside). Ann and I kinda want to go there, but given the distance and how busy it is on Saturdays, we might be better off sticking with Addis Cafe (near me) which has one awesome nutella item on their menu.

After the Cafe, I went across the street to the American Writers Museum. Okay, I think maybe I kinda like museums if I am there alone and can go at my own - fast - pace. 

I'm doing a test drive of a recipe that I might make for the next LGBT potluck. That's pretty much it for today I think. There's a website that lets you call voters in certain states to urge them to call their Senators about TrumpCare. I might give it a spin, later on in the day. 

Yesterday my Mom commented that the weather during my sabbatical has been great, and she's been right by and large. But this week my luck seems to have run out - it's projected to be way hot like in the high 80's! Not normal for the 3rd week of September. So as for my plans tomorrow, a food rescue at Bruegger's Bagels and then stuff that doesn't require me to be outside much. Maybe a drive to the restaurant Handlebar as it was on my list. Or a Netflix movie marathon. Or a visit to Oak Park's new museum.
2017-09-18 04:46 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Entering the 3rd-to-the-last week of the sabbatical!

This morning I had a successful run at locating forest preserves near me. It's a long story but there's one I went to years ago and wasn't able to find again, until this morning. It was lovely. Its trail also connects with another one that I was trying to find.

Then I cooked a lot. Then my parents came in on the train and I drove them out to see my Great Aunt Joanne. I drove them home instead of putting them back on the train.

Funny how the day passes. I got home and it was dinnertime already. Now I'm settling in with a glass of wine and my Netflix movie My Cousin Rachel, as I wait for Doris to return home from work. 

I think tomorrow I will visit this Nutella place in Chicago which is near the American Writers' Museum. 
2017-09-17 02:10 pm
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The sabbatical diaries and also birthday stuff

Had a blast yesterday. As I wrote, we had a board game night followed by a drag show at our local Hamburger Mary's. Rollin showed up dressed in drag - I was shocked and then my sides hurt from laughing! Had so much fun and I'm so thankful for my friends for going along with this. 

What else? Got lots of nice gifts. My family and some friends made donations (at my request) to different organizations. My boss sent me flowers, another coworker emailed me a Birchbox subscription, another texted me a picture of a gift she left on my desk. Doris gifted me with underwear, and best of all she did some things I asked her to (sorted through electronics that can be recycled, printed something for me, and said she will sewn some buttons on various items that need them). Pam texted me birthday wishes, and about 10 minutes later her son Alaska did the same. (I joked with Eric that I'm sure Pam reminds him to do so, but I still think it's awesome). 

After yesterday's fun, Doris and I are laying low today. We are going to go to dinner at a restaurant we love, Mana Food Bar. We also finished the final few episodes of Orphan Black. No spoilers - we love the show, we're happy with the ending. To break things down, I loved the first two seasons, felt season 3 dipped in quality a bit, and season 5 dipped again a bit. But still - overall I think it was a great show, loved the characters, am glad the writers tied things up. Brava!

2017-09-15 03:05 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

The last day and a half were busy. Mom and I flew down south to my sister's graduation from the Air Force. The trip was smooth and uneventful. Mom is a great traveling companion. Tina (my sister) was very tired but I think glad to be done. She'll be stationed in Georgia for 3 years. After that, I think it's her choice if she wants to stay with the Air Force or move on.

Got home a couple hours ago and am just vegging out on the sofa and reading and looking at the cute cat basically.

But TOMORROW IS GAME NIGHT! AND because it's my birthday weekend, we're going to a drag show afterwards. YAY!! Friends, board games, pizza, and drag queens - life is good.  
2017-09-13 04:37 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

So yesterday I did end up picking up that second shift at the food pantry. I liked it. Basically what it was - some clients are on home delivery because they just can't get to the pantry for whatever reason. So I get a given client's list, a shopping cart and bags, and I go around and fill it up based on what the client wants. When I'm done with one, I do the next. The pantry organized it very well, with people helping me at every step of the way. (Then someone else drives the completed orders to the clients).

I wanted to say that today's been somewhat lazy, but that's not entirely true as so far it's gone by fast. I packed for tomorrow's trip (flying to Alabama for my sister's graduation from the Air Force). I cooked a lot, like more than I usually do. Went to Trader Joe to stock up on the frozen burritos I like, plus was hoping to get some drinks that I'd purchased there before (drinks that are similar to wine coolers, but they didn't have them this time).  I tried to go to a nearby forest preserve but I couldn't find it and my GPS led me astray. (Oooops!) I read a lot. 

Pam sent me a wonderful birthday gift - earrings and a blue dress! They're really nice, and I'm very touched.

Oh, yesterday I watched the documentary The Loving Story, which is a good companion to the movie Loving which I saw on Monday. Both are about Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple whose case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Loving vs Virginia decision overturned state bans on interracial marriage. Both the movie and the documentary were excellent. 

Still watching The Expanse, still liking it but not in love with it. Part of me still misses having a fandom. Maybe the fangirling I did in 2013-14 was so intense because it was my system's last gasp at it? It's just weird to have gone for 3 years without being a crazy fangirl over anything. 
2017-09-13 12:47 pm
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book report


My rating system:

10 – life-changing, an all-time favorite

5 - average for what I read

1 – terrible; why did I finish it?


Trees in Shadow by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard – A graphic novel with an intriguing storyline: giant trees have landed in many cities on earth. For 10 years, they’ve just sat there. Whoever put them there apparently has no desire to communicate with us or to even recognize us as intelligent life. I like the idea and the characters, but weirdly I’m not feeling compelled to read the rest of the series. Grade: 5


Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel – This was really excellent. The author is a journalist and he tells the story of Christopher Knight, a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years. I honestly was glued to every page. Knight’s story was just so interesting, how he got there, how he survived, and what happened when he was returned to civilization against his will.  I see on Goodreads that other reviewers also read it in just a couple of sittings, as I did. Grade: 9


The Earth House by Jeanne DuPrau – I picked up this paperback, published 25 years ago, spontaneously at a used bookstore. The author and her partner are Buddhists and, inspired by a retreat, decide to leave behind the suburbs and build a tiny house in the mountains near the monastery. Their endeavor leads to an ending, not a beginning and not what they had in mind. I cried, the book was moving. Grade: 7


How to be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky –There’s an advice column called Ask Polly, and this is a compilation of its Q&As. I’m truly surprised at the praise on the back cover of the book, and I unfortunately just didn’t connect with this book. The questions from readers all sounded so similar – it felt like they were all written by the same person. Unlike what I’ve read from Dear Sugar (Cheryl Strayed’s advice column) and Dan Savage, the advice-seekers and their problems here really lack diversity – far as I can tell, no one is LGBT or a person of color. Most folks in here are 30-something women living in big cities and experiencing boy-trouble. The writer keeps trying to be funny but I wasn’t feeling her humor at all, and all her profanity just got irritating. (“Girl, it ain’t cute”). Occasionally she provides a nugget of wisdom in her answers and the book wasn’t all bad, but I recommend “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” instead. Grade: 3


Startup by Doree Shafrir – A novel taking place in modern day NYC involving a few people who sort of know each other and work at starups. There’s a young and hungry journalist working at an online gossip blog, a 30-something mom who feels stuck, a sexist startup CEO/founder, and a few other characters whose storylines come together. The writing was sharp and made me feel like I was in their world, but I don’t think this book will stick with me at all, and it definitely didn’t move or inspire me. Grade: 4

2017-09-12 07:34 am
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Yesterday had a nice trip to Andersonville and then water aerobics with Ann. Also I watched the movie "Loving" which was excellent. 

As for today's plans, I have a food rescue at Fruitful Yield for the food pantry. I need to pick up our weekly CSA delivery. The pantry also sent an email late yesterday saying they urgently need people to cover client-facing shits today at the pantry. I emailed back right away to say I hadn't done one of those shifts for years but I can do it today if someone could give me some guidance. I haven't heard back from them, so that's up in the air right now.

If the food pantry shift doesn't happen today, I think I will visit a local forest preserve since we yet again have great weather today.
2017-09-10 05:01 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Today was a perfect Sunday day! Cool fall weather, chili made by Doris, and us marathon watching Orphan Black. And couple time earlier in the day!

PS - Ann sorry I forgot to mention yesterday our tea and Scrabble date. I had so much fun!

2017-09-09 04:05 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

I'm really loving where I live and the connections I've made here. Between the LGBT potluck yesterday, and then my volunteering with the Dems today, it's nice to walk into a room and just have casual friends and acquaintances. This is part of the life I've always wanted. The Dems monthly meeting today was at the library and I got to chat with my old friend Ben who works there. And then before and during the meeting, got to talk to all the acquaintances I've made there too. As for yesterday's LGBT potluck, I went with my friend Van who often remarks that he doesn't like the group very much, they're old, they're cliquey, etc. Anyway, after the potluck he told me it was the best one he'd been to in a while, partly because I was there. I honestly had a blast. Ran into my vet, John, and this woman Mary Ann who I knew from her campaign for Library Trustee. Chatted with two women who'd gone to Smith College and told them how my wife and I were just in Northampton last weekend. Chatted with a  guy who's a vegetarian and wants to go vegan. Just really nice and fun people. I actually can't wait for the next one!

As for today, Doris got home from work and we went for pizza. Later tonight is the improv show at the local theater. Before that....Orphan Black and wine. Yay!
2017-09-08 01:34 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Last night's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me was good. I didn't stay for the whole show, partly because it was late and partly because the guy next to me smelled like strong aftershave and really bad breath - ugh. But the show was good.

The weather started out good today, although now it's really cloudy and has drizzled off and on. After my usual morning workout, I walked to one of the Little Free Libraries that I pass all the time when I drive - it's on the corner of Augusta and Oak Park Ave. That was one of the things I wanted to do, walk to it; it was a good 42 minute roundtrip walk.

I checked another item off my list - I went to Amitabul for lunch. A lovely place but I wish it were closer - it's always a 35 minute drive on slow, one-lane streets. 

Tonight I'm going with my friend Van to the potluck for a local LGBT group.  Doris may or may not join us.

Got a couple hours before going to pick up the salad I'm bringing to the potluck. I could continue doing "deep cleans" of each room, grocery shop, cook, or meditate - but let's be honest, none of the above are gonna happen this time. Get me a cup of tea and Netflix instead please! 
2017-09-07 03:51 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Did a food rescue from Jewel today. This time it all fit in my car and I didn't need to make 2 trips, which was nice.

Our weather is still awesome so after lunch I drove out west to enjoy the Maple Grove forest preserve. I also went to a nearby place inside a mall which has awesome chair massage. The chair massage was great as always. After it, I got a nice text from my boss. (She said she missed me. She also answered a question I had indicating that we likely will not be traveling much, if at all, the rest of the year. YAY! I'm airplanes-out). Then I ran into someone named Joyce, someone I hadn't seen for a while.

Joyce and I used to volunteer together at the non-profit run by Gail. I haven't been volunteering there much since I moved close to the city. I asked Joyce how it's going, and she gave me the full scoop. Long story short, she no longer volunteers there either as she had a falling out with Gail where she felt Gail was really unfair to her. She also didn't like the secretive way that Gail runs the organization, though that was not the primary reason for her not volunteering there anymore.

This is the second time (that I'm aware of) that Gail had a falling out with a volunteer. Gail can be salty; I've seen it in action myself.

(Sidenote. A book I finished reading recently, "How To Be a Person In the World", talked about friendships and how friends are imperfect. Because everyone, including ourselves, is imperfect. But sometimes if we want to not be lonely we just gotta tolerate our friends' shortcomings, as they tolerate ours. I thought of my friend S who can be persnickety and not always fun to hang with. Gail is not too far from that.)

Gail's usually not-mean to me perhaps because we don't see each other often and perhaps because I donate a large sum (which my employer matches) each year to the organization. Joyce is totally right that Gail needs to tell us more about how the organization is doing, how many people it services. I was saddened and surprised to hear that in March, the last month Joyce volunteered, the group served "only a handful" of clients; Joyce says it's been declining for a while.

Without going into detail - and while understanding that there are 2 sides to every story - what Gail did to Joyce was mean-spirited and cruel. I was sad to hear about it, but again not surprised given what I've observed over the years. Since I only see Gail a few times a year, I can look the other way somewhat; it's not like we're BFFs. But I do think I need to re-evaluate how much money I donate each year given how Joyce underscored some things I don't like about the organization.

I guess it's a big hmmmm. 

2017-09-06 05:40 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Today is the mid-point of my sabbatical.

Did a food rescue from Bruegger's Bagel Bakery. They were great; they had someone help carry the donations to my car. This was especially good because Bruegger's has no parking lot and my car was 2 blocks away.

Then I hopped on the el and went to Lincoln Park Zoo. I hadn't been there in 20 years (I think?) and this place is wonderful! For one thing, it's free. In addition to animals, it has a conservatory, gardens, and a nature trail. I got very close to a tiger and a gorilla. I also saw seals, zebras, giraffes. What a place! One interesting thing was that I didn't get tired like I did yesterday at the museum. Was it because I was solo and able to just determine what I did when? Was it because the zoo was mostly outdoors? Hmmm.

Another day of gorgeous weather too. Sunny (not all the day, but for much of it) and cool in the 60's. Heaven for me. 

Tomorrow evening I have tickets to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. Not sure yet what I'll do during the day - maybe something low-key since I'll have a late night. Oh, and the local LGBTQ group has a potluck on Friday, I gotta figure out what I'm bringing.
2017-09-05 03:56 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Yesterday was fairly uneventful - we flew home from Northampton and thankfully it was a smooth and easy trip back. I'm usually pretty tired after flying so we didn't do much the rest of the day except watch Orphan Black (just starting Season 4 now) and cuddle with the cat who adorably slept next to me on her back.

Weather was a bit hot and stuffy yesterday but today it is a cool, breezy, sunny 63 - my favorite! Our windows are open and I'm loving it. Mom, Dad, and I met in the city for lunch; I took them out for their birthdays. Then Mom and I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. We went with a tour led by a docent, and she did a great job of explaining the exhibits. I got so much more out of it than if I had just looked at the items myself. BUT as always, all the stop-stand-wait-walk a bit-stop-stand-etc just wears on me. I just can't do museums; I was so tired. So we only scratched the surface of the museum and were there just an hour. I wish I could do museums but the only times I've enjoyed them are when Doris pushed me in a wheelchair. 

I picked up the CSA and cooked a bit.

Also I looked at my “to do” list for sabbatical, not the fun one but the one that’s comprised of chores. I’ve more or less completed it. There are a few things still to be done (deep clean each room of the house. Visit Aunty Joanne. Go through which items to take to electronics recycling - but I need Doris to weigh in on that). But by and large, the bulk of it is done. So yay!

Tomorrow marks the halfway point of my sabbatical. 

2017-09-03 06:43 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

Still having fun in Northampton, MA. We leave early tomorrow. Today I would describe as "we did the best we could." We had 2 factors working against us: the forecast gave a 100% chance of rain, and thus we had to confine ourselves to indoor activities. But the museums here on Sundays open at either 11am or noon and close at 4 or 5 pm. Also, we have no car; we've been walking everywhere (with the plan to use Lyft for places we can't walk to).

So we decided to have an early (like 11am) lunch in town, then take Lyft for the 25 minute ride to Emily Dickinson's museum, return to town for tea, and then hit Smith College's art museum before it closes at 4. On the plus side, we loved Emily's museum; the tour was great. But everything took longer than expected - for the Lyft to arrive, and then the tea place (which we still adore) was jam-packed. At one point I looked at the time and told Doris that even if we left tea now (while our tea still had not been served), we'd have less than 30 minutes at Smith's museum before it closes. So we adjusted our plans and visited another museum which was open 1 hour later. It was nice enough but quite small. 

And through all of this, we got drenched. We had an umbrella and we did a good job walking in synch with each other, but we still got drenched and after the second museum, I couldn't wait to get back to our cozy studio and put dry socks on!

So although I can't say that we did a ton of different things on this trip, I would say it was relaxing and interesting and fun to explore a part of the country we'd never been to before. As foodies and tea lovers, we are in love with Northampton for all its great restaurants and its Dobra Tea place. And we love the energy and excitement of this progressive college town. We only scratched the surface of its museum and history, but that's ok  - we're not competing in the vacation olympics. 

2017-09-02 02:06 pm
Entry tags:

The sabbatical diaries

We're in Northampton, MA and my goodness we love it here! A vibrant college town. Fully of beauty, full of funky little stores, great restaurants and cafes full of veg options. We've drank tea twice at this gorgeous tea house. 

Other than walking through the town, we've visited historic Smith College which has a great conservatory and scenic walking trail. 

Tomorrow the forecast calls for rain so we're saving museum trips for tomorrow. 

Our Airbnb is cozy and lovely. A studio apartment (which used to be a garage, I think!) It's fully stocked with whatever we need, and we're a 5 minute walk from the downtown.